One of only 25 made, 1872 ‘Chiefs Medal’ doubles estimate at Sherbrooke Seminary Sale

By Jesse Robitaille

Prices include buyer’s premium.

With rarely encountered material in high-quality condition, the “extraordinary” first part of the Séminaire de Sherbrooke Sale had strong expectations leading up to the first two-day, 600-lot offering this September.

All lots were sold with total realizations of $275,000, according to auctioneers with Montréal’s Champagne Auctions. This initial offering is one of four parts of the collection, which was appraised at $400,000 before the auction.

“These are amazing pieces in beautiful condition – they’ve never been seen like this, in such original condition, with original ribbons and without any scratches like so many things on the market today – and they took strong prices accordingly,” said auction cataloguer Ron Seigler, of MTM International, another Montréal-based firm affiliated with Champagne Auctions.

Among the top highlights was an 1872 Dominion of Canada “Chiefs Medal” that brought $19,000 as Lot 12. It was one of only 25 pieces commissioned to be produced by Montréal silversmith Robert Hendry to replace the “inferior stock medals” previously presented to Indigenous chiefs involved with Treaty 1 and Treaty 2, auctioneers said. Comprised of the 1867 Confederation medal plus an extra ring, the silver-plated copper electrotypes had an estimate of $7,000-$9,000, which was more than doubled when it crossed the block.

Engraved with ‘Indians of the North West Territories’ on the reverse (shown), the 1872 ‘Chiefs Medal’ is one of only 25 pieces commissioned to be made by a Montréal silversmith.

“It was an outstanding success beyond our expectations,” said Seigler, who added there were bidders from around the world but “almost everything of importance stayed in Canada.”

“Prices and demand were very strong, and bids were flying in from all over.”

The second part of the Séminaire de Sherbrooke Sale will be offered in early November and feature commemorative medals with “very strong” Canada and France sections, said Seigler.

In December, part three will offer world coins while part four, in January 2020, will focus on tokens.

Located at 195 Marquette St., in Sherbrooke, Qué., the seminary that assembled the collection over more than a century dates back to 1874, when Monseigneur Antoine Racine was appointed as the first bishop of the new Diocese of Sherbrooke. A year later, under Racine’s leadership, what was then known as the Séminaire Saint-Charles-Borromée opened. He served as the first superior until 1878, around which time the seminary’s abbots began assembling a collection.

“In 1893, Father Pierre-Achille Bégin founded the Société d’histoire naturelle (natural history society) of the Séminaire Saint-Charles-Borromée,” reads the February 2018 issue of “Curator’s Notes,” a regular bulletin about the Sherbrooke Museum of Nature and Sciences’ collection.

“He used the collections he built with his students as the centre of his teaching. In 1900, Léon Marcotte, one of his students, became interested in the museum. He continued his professor’s work until 1964, when an illness forced him to end his activities. He gave the collections and the Museum the breadth and scope they enjoy today.”

Marcotte died in 1969.

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